How ITV Made 'Love Island' Britain's Biggest Summer Hit

Courtesy of ITV
'Love Island'

ITV execs describe how they rebooted the reality dating show, which is getting a U.S. adaptation via CBS.

With CBS having nabbed the hotly contested U.S. rights to U.K. reality TV dating sensation Love Island, the factors behind the show's British success were the central talking point in the opening session at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

In the "Love Island Masterclass" on Wednesday morning, show executives and several stars described how the eight-week series — in which young, attractive singletons look for love while living together over the summer in a Spanish villa — became such a cultural talking point and ratings hit in the U.K..

Alongside its impressive stats on linear, which averaged 4 million viewers per episode on ITV's ITV2 channel, Love Island became the most successful show digitally in the 16-34 age bracket, where it enjoyed a 51 percent share.

"We had 2 million requests per episode on the ITV Hub," said Paul Mortimer, ITV's head of digital channels and acquisitions, who said that the major boost had been the show going up on ITV's on-demand service immediately following its on-air transmission. "That was massively important."

“It’s a show that lives and breathes beyond the transmission times,” added ITV Studios Entertainment boss Angela Jain, who helped relaunch Love Island in 2015 for ITV after its initial run in 2005. Alongside its impressive viewing figures, Jain pointed to its 3 million app downloads, the 12 million tweets about the show sent and 230,000 personalized, "Love Island" branded water bottles sold. 

“People can’t get enough. Superfans can’t get enough,” added Chris Younie, Love Island’s senior digital producer. Younie acknowledged that for seasons one and two, social media hadn’t been a major focus, with a threadbare digital team.

“But we now have over 20 people working on Love Island from a purely digital point of view,” he said. “The change has been ridiculous.”

Alongside its major Twitter presence, Love Island is now the biggest U.K. TV show on Instagram, while a new podcast was number one in the charts throughout the summer.

“People were walking up and checking their social media feed, but we didn’t have any new content,” he said of the decision to launch the podcast for season four. “A podcast was the perfect solution — we now tap into the commute to work.”

Little is yet known about the CBS version of Love Island, but the tactics deployed by ITV in creating its summer TV behemoth are no doubt being carefully considered ahead of the network's U.S. launch.